Stylish and understated on the outside, flashy on the inside, the white-brick Clift Hotel is only a couple of blocks from Union Square and Market Street, San Francisco's premier shopping district. Even when the sun is shining outside, the large foyer and adjoining lounge area, with leather armchairs, is dark and gloomy. You can only just make out the centrepiece - a surrealist giant chair, which is the kind of thing you expect to find in Barcelona's hip hotels. Trying to be glamorous, but bordering on the seedy, the Clift's dark bar is staffed by waitresses in cocktail dresses, charging a hefty $8 for a bottle of beer. The decor in here and the adjacent grandiose restaurant is an opulent mix of velvet and leather. For the buffet breakfast ($26 a head), at least, the night-club style ambiance is all a bit over-the-top and oppressive, leaving you craving daylight. Instead of the buffet, you can also order some hot dishes, such as the slightly greasy corn beef hash ($12), but coffee will cost you another five bucks or so.
Poky, dated and basic
The Clift's bedrooms have paper-thin walls enabling you to clearly hear conversations next door, but they are tastefully decorated in light, pastel shades. As well as big and comfortable beds, the rooms are equipped with safes, irons and ironing boards, a large desk, flat-screen television, bathrobes, an array of lamps and just about anything else you might need. But the view from the window is likely to be a brick wall and the en-suite bathrooms can be a bit poky, basic and dated, while wired or wireless Internet access is a pricey $15 a day. Still, if you can get a discount code, the Clift's rates are good value for largish rooms in such a central location. 6/10